Advertisement

Archive for Friday, November 6, 1998

VANDALS STRIKE CEMETERY

November 6, 1998

Advertisement

Until the ground dries out, city workers won't be able to use a backhoe to return cemetery monuments to their original positions.

About a dozen headstones -- some of them more than 100 years old -- remained on the wet grass Thursday at Oak Hill Cemetery in East Lawrence, victims of vandals who toppled 49 of the monuments.

Five of the headstones broke when they were capsized sometime Monday night or Tuesday morning. Compounding the problem is the age of the granite and manmade marble objects -- cemetery officials don't know if family members who can repair the stones live in Lawrence.

The city will make sure the headstones are placed upright again, but Terry Engel, a city maintenance worker, said it's up to family members to repair the five damaged stones.

"Most of the destruction was in a very old part of the cemetery," Engel said.

The city owns and maintains the cemetery, at 1605 Oak Hill.

"There's really no way of knowing if the families are still around," he said.

The cemetery, which has a memorial to those killed in Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, dates to 1865.

Several obelisk-shaped monuments -- from 6 to 7 feet tall and about a foot wide at the bottom -- remained on the ground Thursday. Engel said they are too heavy to be moved by hand, and the ground is too saturated with water to drive a backhoe in the area.

In the 17 years he's worked at the cemetery, Engel has seen about half a dozen cases of headstones knocked over. This week's spree wasn't even the worst he's encountered.

"In the past, when we've caught those responsible, it's usually the younger groups doing it, high-school aged," Engel said. "There's no reason for it other than orneriness. Most people respect the resting place of other people's loved ones, but there's a few of the younger generation that just don't have that respect yet."

The cemetery gates are locked daily at 5 p.m., but Engel said the vandals probably entered through gaps in the fence.

"There were a couple of the markers that were fairly large," he said. "In my opinion, it would take more than one person to knock them over."

Lawrence police are investigating the vandalism, but there are no suspects. Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 843-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and callers remain anonymous. Crime Stoppers does not subscribe to Caller ID.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.